review tagged posts

Library Review: Sous Chef : 24 Hours on the Line by Michael Gibney

If you ever had grand ideas about working in a kitchen or becoming a chef you should probably abandon them. Though many books have exposed the arduous process of becoming a chef, rarely have we seen the sheer weight of the obligations, routine and pressure to perform laid so bare before us.

Such is the accomplishment of Sous Chef: 24 Hours on the Line, the first book by Michael Gibney. Gibney is the former executive chef at Tavern on the Green. He’s worked for a who’s who of prestigeous restaurants including: Per Se, Le Bernardin, Bouley, Ducasse, wd~50, and Momofuku.

That accumulated wealth of top level culinary experience lends itself to the exacting tone and beat of his walk through a day in the life of a sous chef. Events others might simply omit or gloss over are meticulously retold, and at times you almost assume that he had videotaped his time in the kitchen with his near perfect recall. This book will probably leave you  to conclude – as I did – the following: the job of being a chef is impossible. It can’t be done and to harbor any dreams or delusions about becoming a rockstar chef is a fool’s errand. And yet, people do it.

It is that exacting detail that is the true brilliance of this book. The intricate, painstaking, sensual anecdotes that Gibney gives us to place us firmly in the “you” role of the sous chef. The book is written in 2nd person, forcing the reader to inhabit the character of a sous chef working the line on a 300 hundred cover (300 guest) night at a 90 seat Manhattan restaurant.

The book begins with a map displaying the layout of the restaurant kitchen. Though Gibney later explains that each restaurant kitchen is unique in terms of size, shape, and overall design; that many factors and stations are universal. From studying the map we learn about “the pass” – the area all food travels through between cooking and plating for service, the various food stations and prep areas, as well as walk ins, loading docks, offices and locker rooms.

The crucial factor is that we learn more than just that these places exist. We learn both their importance and their physical location, how one relates to the other to create the unique eco-system that allows a kitchen staff to thrive. Gibney isn’t satisfied to simply give us an annotated map. The book begins with “you”, the sous chef, arriving at an empty restaurant and walking his way through the entire kitchen, preparing for the day: checking the inventory, cleanliness, and state of his world; while pondering the physical and mental strain that is to come. This kind of exposition might seem…odd…boring even, but Gibney’s lively prose and description makes the journey through a deserted restaurant absolutely sing.

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Library Review: Relish: My Life in the Kitchen


If you think back to your strongest memories, how many of them are connected to food? That’s the essential question behind Lucy Knisley’s memoir Relish: My Life in the Kitchen. The book chronicles Knisley’s life and travels, with food and cooking interwoven at every step along the way. Whether it is remembrances of her mother’s amazing cooking and the experiences of being around professional kitchens, farmers markets and catering jobs, or discovering amazing cuisine  while traveling with her dad.

The stories themselves would be enough for a tremendous food memoir, but what really elevates the text is that it is presented in a graphic novel format, with Knisley herself providing the artwork. She has a wonderful simple style that exudes warmth, perfectly complements the wit and welcome of her prose and allows her to create wonderful caricatures. If you want to know how good, be sure to check the final few pages of the book, where Knisley has included a few real photographs from growing up and you can see just how closely her drawings match the people in her life.

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Theros Casual & Commander Review: White

Theros is a weird set. Over the last few years, Wizards has really pushed limited formats but that comes at a cost of complexity in cards. But this also means a lot of cards that are only playable in limited and not even something I would consider fringe playable at the kitchen table. Theros’s Voltron-inspired design makes for some odd choices that just don’t seem to quite click just yet but I’m hoping it will come together in the next two sets.

Like all of our Casual & Commander reviews, I will be looking at each card individually and comparing it against all the cards in Magic’s history to see which ones make the cut to the kitchen table and which ones should just be tossed into your Bulk box now. First up is white.

Theros Casual & Commander Review
White | Blue | Black | Red | Green | Multicolor, Artifacts & Lands

Battlewise Valor

Simple pump spell with a dash of scry isn’t bad, and the addition of Heroic makes this card a little more exciting than Mighty Leap. But it still isn’t terribly exciting. What a way to begin!

Cavalry Pegasus

As mentioned in our Heroes vs. Monsters review, Cavalry Pegasus is a new human lord… and a flying horse. In limited, this is good but outside of it, eh.

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Numenera: Meeting the People

Numenera - People - Aeon Priest

Last time, I went over the geography of the Ninth World to explore the setting of Numenera. This time, I wanted to look over what sort of people and creatures inhabit the Ninth World. Living amidst the remains of a billion years of previous civilizations is a strange prospect and it means that the people of Numenera are both used to and mystified by the strange technology they find lying around their world. The things you can find in the wilderness or cities of this setting may fill the same narrative niches as goblins and cultists and ghosts but they are very different.

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Numenera: Exploring the Lands

Numenera - Lands - Obelisk of the Water God

When I did my one-hour review of Numenera, I had to skim through some of the densest parts of the books to fit an overview in. This included the Setting and Creatures sections, which were not apparently essential to understanding what the game had to offer, though they looked interesting and imaginative. Now that I’ve had some more time to go back and look through these sections, it’s clear that the game designers managed their goal of merging science-fiction and fantasy well.

It’s maybe handy that I’m finally getting around to A Memory of Light, the final book in the Wheel of Time  series, as I’m reading through Numenera because there are some handy connections. Like the Ninth World, the lands in Robert Jordan’s series live amidst the ruins of a former time that they don’t really understand and that seems crazy. Through glimpses into the past, we know that people before the Breaking had hovercars and laser guns just as people in earlier eras before Numenera likely did.

The difference here, though, is that the Ninth World is distinctly sci-fi in it’s themes and outlook. There are some heroes to celebrate and monsters to slay, but the hooks and adventures provided focus more on exploring and understanding. The unknown regions of the Ninth World feel more like the “new worlds and new civilizations” of Star Trek than the wild regions of Conan’s Hyperborea, as one example of contrast. It’s a hard thing to explain the feel of this game (a hallmark of Monte Cook) so I’ll just outline it by showing off the book instead of groping more.

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Arena Review: Duel Decks: Heroes vs. Monsters

My love of Duel Decks isn’t a well kept secret. I know, it sounds absurd to say that I love these little pre-constructed decks that draw across the planes of Magic, but I really do love them! With the September releases acting as a preview for the upcoming set, Heroes vs. Monsters is a good, old-fashioned battle of giant creatures. While Sorin vs. Tibalt soured on me as time went on (well, mostly just Tibalt – even I can’t get him to work), Izzet vs. Golgari are both intact in my deck box because they’re so much fun!

Suggested Ages: 13+
Suggested Players: 2 players
Contents:

  • Two ready-to-play 60-card decks
  • Two deck boxes
  • Two creature tokens
  • A strategy insert
  • A Magic “Learn to Play” guide

Retail price: $19.99 available at Amazon.com

Duel Decks is a series of decks that Wizards releases biannually in the spring and fall. In the spring, they are based around a duel of two planeswalkers from the previous block, while in the fall they act as a preview of the upcoming fall release. In the case of Heroes vs. Monsters, both decks are drawing a great amount of inspiration from the upcoming Theros set.

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One Hour Library Review: Shadowrun Fifth Edition

In our One Hour Reviews, we set a clock for sixty minutes and analyze the book. When time is up, we stop. The goal is to try and look over as much of the book as possible, without getting bogged down in any one section. Similar to how you might leaf through a book in the store, with some specific granularity, but mainly to focus on gaining a high level understanding of everything the RPG has to offer. Set the clock and let’s go!

Out of the big-name, long-running roleplaying games, Shadowrun has had an impressive and persistent run considering the many different banners it’s been published under. It started in 1989 (not as far back as Dungeons & Dragons but farther than Vampire: The Masquerade or Rifts) under the FASA Corporation. It was sold in 2001 to WizKids which was then bought by Topps which then licensed the rights to the RPG to Catalyst Game Labs, the current producers.

Recently, the latest edition of the game – Fifth Edition - was published and I quickly bought myself a copy to see what new mechanics they had, what strangeness of the digital and Astral realms awaited, and what craziness was in store for the Sixth World. Considering the tumult of Shadowrun‘s history, you might expect and even forgive a little choppiness in the book. To my delight, the book is anything but choppy and has some great changes. Check out what I found during my first hour with the new book.

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Food Court Wars Recap: Detroit Crunch City

Life intervened and prevented my recapping of last week’s episode of Food Court Wars, but this week we’re back on track so let’s get right to it. We’re in Midland Michigan at the Midland Mall.

Our main man, Tyler Florence , who has been in the restaurant business for a quarter century (that sounds much more impressive than 25 years) remains dapper looking in the middle of the mall. Quick fashion note, his pocket square doesn’t match the rest of his outfit, but let’s just move onto the teams.

Chip N’ Wich – run by Jonathan and Craig, both from downtown Detroit. Friends for six years, they developed a gourmet sandwich shop that puts their own potato chips right on the sandwich, giving them “the sandwich with the crunch.” They both have jobs in kitchens in Detroit, but are looking for other ways to support their families.

Oasis – Diana and Melania serve international food at the World Cafe, which specialties in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine. They already have a restaurant, but the food court kiosk would be called “Oasis” and would be the “quick service” version of their main restaurant. Melania formerly worked in retail, and after moving home to be with family she reinvented herself as a chef relying on culinary experience that came from working in restaurants as a teen.

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Magic 2014 M14 Casual & Commander Review: Artifacts & Land

What secrets are hidden inside M14 for the colorless crowd? Normally I have some elusive comment giving a hint but I’m flying blind for this one. Maybe I need to pay more attention to spoiler season since quitting… Anywho, here are the artifacts and lands of M14 through the eyes of the kitchen table! Will they hold up (usually not) but every now and then, something comes along that turns a head or two.

Magic 2014 (M14) Casual & Commander Review
White Blue | Black | Red | Green | Artifacts & Lands

Bubbling Cauldron

This card is hilariously awkward and part of a beautiful mega cycle. Part of me wishes the second ability worked on any newt, but the card benefits from not being 100% useless without newts. Add in the exceptional Soul Feast ability and you’ve got a card that can be very dangerous with a copy effect or two.

Guardian of the Ages

Yep, everyone has been clamoring for a colorless version of Elder Land Wurm. While I love the continuation of giant but slow creatures, the 7 mana cost makes this one a tough pill to swallow. Still, a 7/7 trampler for 7 isn’t awful and in multiplayer game you can easily hide behind one of these late game for a turn or two.

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Magic 2014 M14 Casual & Commander Review: Green

As we wrap up the M14 review for casual and commander, we look at the last of WUBRG: Green. Traditionally in core sets, Green is a bit on boring side. It has a lot of creatures and a handful of spells, but rarely does it do something really exciting.

Magic 2014 (M14) Casual & Commander Review
White Blue | Black | Red | Green | Artifacts & Lands

Advocate of the Beast

This feels like a card that should have come out in Shards of Alara or Onslaught given the creature types. In a dedicated beast deck, it is an okay creature but it doesn’t wow me the same way Ivy Lane Denizen did.

Elvish Mystic

Llanowar Elves is finally replaced with a singular elf! Elvish Mystic is a great creature, and I don’t think anyone is complaining about Llanowar Elves 8-12 (thanks Fyndhorn Elves!).

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